Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

 Has anyone ever heard of RAWAC?  Well, I didn’t until I read an article titled “Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum.”  This article talked about how the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are trying to refocus the attention on RAWAC through the CCSS (Common Core State Standards).  As of June 2010 the CCSS had been adopted by 40 states.  The standards focus on math and English language arts.  The hope is that the CCSS standard will lead to the creating of a “robust program of RAWAC.” 

The article goes on to talk about how RAWAC has not been a priority in most school and how the attention to RAWAC has been limited and has declined in recent years.  Another concern was that teachers of science, math, and social studies do not see the importance of teaching RAWAC in their classrooms.  The aim of the article was to change the views of those teachers. 

Research has proven that “discipline-based instruction in reading and writing enhances student achievement in all subjects.”  In other words, RAWAC is essential to learning.  One would think that this evidence alone would be enough to convince teachers of all subjects that it is beneficial and should be used in their classrooms.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.   While the research about the benefits of RAWAC is clear, simple, and easy to understand, “implementation of programs that incorporate reading and writing instruction into all subjects has been slow and/or unsuccessful.” 

The teacher’s role in RAWAC is key and there are ways that teachers can implement RAWAC into their curriculum without making drastic changes or increasing their workload.

Low-Stakes Writing Assignments

These are shorted writing assignments that ask students to explain key concepts, summarize arguments on a given topic, or outline a procedure.  Again research shows that “writing regularly in this way fosters learning because it strengthens connections with course reading.”  This is a concept that has been mentioned in many of the articles I read but mainly when dealing with WAC at the college level not the K-12 level.  This is just further proof that WAC can be used in education period. 

Provide Multiple Forms of Feedback

This feedback doesn’t have to come solely from the teacher.  Student learning can be enhanced by peer responses to writing, whole class discussion of student writing samples, students’ reflection to their own writing, and brief one-on-one conferences. 

Use of a Variety of Texts

Don’t just depend on the textbooks as the primary reading material for the subject you are teaching.  Incorporating a variety of texts – essays, primary sources, fiction, scientific reports, inventories, etc. – help students learn in all subjects.  Students can also benefit from assignments that vary in length.  Another suggestion was to require that students read difficult texts aloud and pause to explain their own meaning-making process.  This method goes hand-in-hand with the implementing a variety of levels of reading difficulty.  Not all students are able to read at grade level and providing texts of different reading levels enables all students to participate in the class.

Professional Development

Those teachers who are interested in implementing RAWAC into their classroom have expressed that they feel unprepared and lack the professional expertise necessary for helping students to develop their literacy capacities.  This is where professional development comes into play.   Professional development helps to foster student achievement as well as foster collaboration among teachers.  There’s that word again:  collaboration.   “Teacher learning communities or communities of practice – interdisciplinary groups that share study and reflection on their won practices – can be effective in transforming teaching.”

I think that this article does a great job in showing teachers of math, science, and social studies that reading and writing should not be left exclusively for the ELA teachers.  They can be and should be taught in all classes or disciplines.  It may take a bit of creativity on their part but the results will be well worth the effort.  Schools should also invest in good professional development programs to help prepare the teachers for the implementation of RAWAC into their classes.

The James R. Squire Office of Policy Research in the English Language Arts (2011).  Reading and Writing across Curriculum.  The Council Chronicle, 20.3, 13-18.  Urbana:  NCTE.  Print.

One Response to “Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum”
  1. Rocking connections here… I’m so behind the idea of using EVERYTHING teachers can get their hands on, especially free reading and writing materials, like OER, to make RAWAC a reality in learning communities for teachers and students.

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